Monday, August 21, 2006

Negotiating into a Fan with Iran

Yesterday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that Iran will refuse demands that it give up its nuclear enrichment program. No one should be surprised at that--it was an entirely predictable reaction to the Bush administration's "make them an offer they can't accept" diplomacy.

Article IV of the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty states that, "Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination…" As a party to the treaty, Iran has every justification to dig its heels in on the nuclear enrichment issue.

Pretzel Logic Diplomacy

The next step, according to most reports, will be a meeting of the UN Security Council to vote on sanctions against Iran. That will be a dicey proposition. The countries on the Security Council are also NPT signatories, and have in essence already granted Iran the right to develop peaceful nuclear technologies. What's more, imposing sanctions on Iran would be slapping the hand that's providing the packets of $100 bills Hezbollah is passing around to the homeless in southern Lebanon. That won't play well at all in the Muslim world, or in much of the rest of the world either.

Plus, two of the Security Council's members--Russia and China--are already predisposed to back Iran. Russia is making money by exporting nuclear technology to Iran, and China is fueling its industrial expansion with Iranian petroleum products. What's more, Russia and China have a window of opportunity now to use Iran as a lever to topple U.S. influence in South West Asia.

There's more. Arguments supporting sanctions say that Iran violated the NPT by hiding parts of its nuclear program from UN inspectors. But if anything, that was a violation of the Additional Protocol to the treaty that allowed "international nuclear inspectors to visit any nuclear site, installation or project at short notice and without any restrictions." And the Additional Protocol was a voluntary measure.

According to the Iran Press Service, Iran "accepted" the protocol in 2003, but never presented it to its parliament for ratification. In October 2005, Iran's Secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security Ali Larijani said, “If addressed with a language of menace and force, we shall continue with the NPT and talking, but will get out of the Additional Protocols.”

As shaky as that line of semantic maneuvering may sound, it gives China and Russian more than ample wiggle room to tell the rest of the Security Council, "Sorry, guys, but we just can't go along with sanctions. Rule of law, and so on. Isn't that what young Mister Bush talks about all the time?"

Unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran would be about as effective as cutting off an allowance to a kid you weren't giving an allowance to in the first place. And if China and Russia continue doing business with Iran--which they will--Iran won't notice a spit's bit of difference in its economy.

If, by some chance China and Russia sign off on the sanctions, Iran may well simply drop out of the NPT, which the treaty itself allows them to do.

Send in the Neo-Clowns

A Security Council veto of UN sanctions or an Iranian withdrawal from the NPT will likely set off a string of Roman candles in Dick Cheney's head, and brother, watch out for what happens then. If Uncle Dick talks young Mister Bush into launching a major air operation on Iran, things will go to Hezbollah in a handbag.

I won't go into the tactical technical details here for reasons I hope are obvious, but Iran can shut down the Strait of Hormuz faster than you can say, well, "the Strait of Hormuz." Whatever portion of the mighty U.S. Navy that happens to be in the Arabian Gulf will be trapped there, and the rest of the U.S. Navy won't be able to get into the Gulf to rescue them. The 130 thousand something ground troops in Iraq will be stranded, and surrounded by a hostile (and armed) Shia population. What little the U.S. Air Force can do to alleviate the situation will be further constrained by that services' strict "crew rest" doctrine.

Yes, given an all out effort, the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force could fight its way out of the Middle East, but how would that look? The best-trained, best-equipped, best financed military force in history, chased out of Southwest Asia by a country that couldn't beat Iraq in an eight year war?

Iran is scheduled to give its formal response to the "incentives" offer to the Security Council today. The U.S. will be represented on the Council by the Swiss ambassador because the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran.

That's classic Bush II era American diplomacy. We set the precondition for negotiations with Iran, but refuse to talk to Iran about the precondition.

I'm telling you, folks, if we don't do something to check the bull goose loonies running our country come November, the rest of the New American Century is going to look like the beginning of the last American century.

Forget about investing in ethanol and fuel cells. Sink your money into oats and hay.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous11:00 PM

    Yup. Looks that way to me too, Commander. That's one insecure LOC from Baghdad south to Hormuz and it doesn't look like any of the the DOD Chairborne Rangers have snapped to it. I'm sure they've been told but yet again they're not listening. Thanks

  2. Mus,

    I have not heard that. I'll look around to see what I find. Offhand, it doesn't make sense to me that Iran would be wanting to make enemies of the Kurds right now, but we'll find out, eh?


  3. Anonymous9:01 AM

    The Kurds are trained and supported by the IDF. Low-scale hostilities, and such tits for tats, would probably be so common as to be hardly worth mentioning. Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all have Kurdish minorities, and are not at all keen on a new Kurdish state coming to be.

    This is probably the main reason why the Turks were adamant in refusing Wolfowitz their support during the trip to Baghdad.

  4. John,

    Sorry, I hit the post key too soon. Yeah, I think the LOC issue is why maybe Rummy's getting cold feet about an Iran excursion.


    Thanks for the info on the Kurds.

  5. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Some think the British Empire ended in 1945, others when India gained its independence in 1947.

    I, and many others, put its end at the 15th and 16th of September 1931, when the sailors in Invergordon made it clear to the apex of the British establishment that they would not bear any cost to maintain the Most Hallowed Empire. In other words, the masters of the British universe no longer had the muscle to be all that they wanted to be.

    From then on out it was a series of tactical retreats, until even the densest caught on, such as Churchill, caught on (cf. John Charmley.)

    Peter Scholl-Latour, one of Europe's foremost experts on the mideast, has written a book "Bush against the Ayatollahs - a superpower in quicksand," a very telling title.

  6. Anonymous9:15 AM

    * Must read.*

  7. Good article, Anon. Thanks for the link.

  8. Your core assumption is that negotiations with Iran haven't been tried. They have! Without reciprocation! Iranian officials are liars and that is a demonstrative fact. They have lied over and over again. They’ve lied to the IAEA, they’ve lied to the UN and they constantly lie to the Iranian people. The Bush administration's approach has taken that reality into account while you have not. This is an Iranian crisis that has little to do with the Bush Administration. Under Rafsanjani and Khatami, the Clinton administration made massive offers to Tehran. Even under the Bush administration offers were made. Recall Dick Armitage made the Khatami Cult sound like they were golden. The 2003 Iranian offer you mention in your piece was an illegal offer from the Iranians and the people who tout it as a Bush failure ignore that point. It was to be a trade; Al Qaeda operatives supposedly detained in Iran for opponents of the Iranian government detained by the US in Iraq. The Iranian judicial system is severly lacking. Handing dissidents over to the Iranian government would be tantamount to executing them without due process. By the way, the Turks and the Iranians are targeting the PKK with artillery in the northern Iraq and the U.S. and Iraqi governments are acting like it is not happening, overtly anyway.

  9. That's not my core assumption. My core assumption is that Iran has maneuvered the US into a corner. Not a wise way to go perhaps, but then I'm not real certain how much of the powers that be there are pandering to the domestic audience.

    If you can point me to an article or source about the nature of the 2003 offer I'd very much appreciate it.

  10. Anonymous11:37 AM

    who knows what's going on in north Iraq right now? the border's kind of fuzzy up there in the mountains anyway. I do know that the last time the media had a frenzied reaction to iranian shelling of north iraq (a couple of months ago), the PKK had sent teams into iran to cause mischief. the iranian army deployed to drive them back into iraq. they were shelling PKK positions INSIDE Iran while driving the rebels back. becuase of the inaccuracy of shells, some of them fell in iraq while the PKK was retreating. i can only assume that this incident is similar. iran's government is proud of the fact that they have not faught a war of aggression against their neighbors in generations. they use that as leverage. they aren't going to foul that international brownie point up when they are going to need it very soon, especially not over a group of rebels like the PKK.

    as for Turkey, they have been stating publicly for years that if the kurdish army in the newly freed Iraq continue with their attacks on turkish army positions or continue in their attempts to make an independant kurdish state, then the turkish army will invade north iraq to put down the uprising. they have made this clear many times, so it is no surprise to me that they are doing something about it now.

  11. And our troops are stuck in the middle of that mess.


  12. John,

    I'm not entirely convinced that Rummy and his four-star yes men even know what an LOC is.